February 2011 Ratings: Middle East Unrest Propels CNN to Double Digit Growth

By Alex Weprin 

Bolstered by its coverage of the situation in Egypt and Libya, CNN saw double-digit gains in total day and primetime. The network was essentially neck and neck with MSNBC for the month, though the battle was still over a distant second place to Fox News.

  • Primetime (Mon-Sun): 674K Total Viewers / 216K A25-54
  • Total Day (Mon-Sun): 484K Total Viewers / 159K A25-54

From 3 PM to midnight, every single CNN program was up in both total viewers and the demo compared to last year. With a constant flow of breaking news from the Middle East and Wisconsin, it gave the news programs plenty to talk about.

In his first full month on the air, Piers Morgan improved upon the time period ratings from a year ago when Larry King held court, up +21% in total viewers and +50% in the demo. Morgan averaged 812,000 total viewers and 237,000 demo viewers.

Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” performed even stronger, growing +55% and +56% in total viewers at 10 and 11 PM, and +83% and +78% in the demo. Cooper’s show averaged 855,000 total viewers and 305,000 demo viewers at 10 PM and 563,000 total viewers and 229,000 demo viewers at 11 PM. Cooper was able to top “The Ed Show” at 10 PM on MSNBC for the month.

The only CNN program to lose viewers was “American Morning,” which declined -13% in total viewers, but was up +8% in the demo compared to last year. “John King USA” had the weakest performance among the dayside/primetime shows, up +2% in total viewers and +20% in the demo compared to last year, bringing in 559,000 total viewers and 177,000 demo viewers. Despite that, it was the best performing month yet for King’s program.

The full CNN release:



Piers Morgan Tonight is Up 50% vs. a Year Ago;

John King, USA Has Best Month Since Launch;

FNC has Double Digit Declines throughout February



During the month of February, CNN had the most growth of any cable news network in M-F primetime compared to a year ago, increasing an impressive +55% in the key demo 25-54 (243k vs. 157k) while MSNBC grew only +8% (265k vs. 246k) and FNC lost viewers, decreasing -14% (575k vs. 666k). In total viewers, CNN also had most growth in primetime increasing +31% (766k vs. 583k) vs. a year ago, MSNBC grew +18% (995k vs. 842k) and FNC declined -12% (2.322m vs. 2.649m).

In addition, CNN’S AC 360 overtook MSNBC at 10 pm in February and CNN topped MSNBC in total day in the demo 25-54 and among total viewers for the first time since June 2010. In total day, CNN posted 159k in the key demo 25-54, an increase of +19% from last year (134k) and averaged 484k in total viewers, a rise of +3% (468k). MSNBC placed third in total day in the demo (146k) and in total viewers (450k).

Throughout each hour of primetime (M-F), CNN posted big gains compared to a year ago. While CNN overtook MSNBC at 10 pm, the network significantly narrowed the gap with MSNBC at 8 pm and 9 pm compared to 4th quarter averages. FNC had double digit declines throughout primetime.

At 10 pm:

* Anderson Cooper topped MSNBC at 10 pm for the first time since June 2010, with AC 360 averaging 305k compared to MSNBC The Ed Show’s 234k in the demo 25-54. In total viewers, Cooper also topped Ed Schultz with 855k vs. MSNBC’s 827k.
* Anderson Cooper is up +83% in the demo 25-54 compared to a year ago (305k vs. 167k), Shultz increased +41% (234k vs. 166k), and FNC’s Greta Van Susteren was the only network to lose viewers at 10pm, decreasing -13% (406k vs. 466k).
* AC 360 is also up +55% in total viewers compared to a year ago (855k vs. 550k), MSNBC is up +53% and FNC is down -12%.
* During the 4th quarter, the demo gap between AC 360 (205k) and MSNBC (258k) was -8% — today, Cooper (305k) has overtaken The Ed Show (234k) with a +30% advantage (data does not include MSNBC Investigates/Lock Up episodes when that programming aired on Fridays at 10 pm).

At 9 pm:

* Piers Morgan Tonight is up +50% in the demo 25-54 compared to a year ago (237k vs. 158k), growing more than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow who is up +39% (302k vs. 217k), while FNC’s Hannity is down -10% (559k vs. 620k).
* Piers Morgan is also up +21% in total viewers compared to a year ago (812k vs. 672k), MSNBC is up +34% and Hannity is off -11%.
* Piers Morgan is top rated among younger viewers (adults 18-34), increasing +78% from a year ago (66k vs. 37k), while MSNBC was down -21% (52k vs. 66k) and FNC declined -27% (60k vs. 82k).
* During the 4th quarter, the demo gap between CNN’s Larry King (169k) and Maddow (285k) was -41% — today, the gap between Piers Morgan (237k) and Maddow (302k) is just -22%.
* Launch-to-date (January 17-February 25) Piers Morgan is averaging 235k in the key demo (an increase of +28%) and 787k in total viewers, up +11% compared to the same period a year ago.

At 8 pm:

* In February, CNN was up +27% in the demo 25-54 compared to the same period a year ago (186k vs. 146k), while MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell was down -9% compared to Keith Olbermann during the same period last year (235k vs. 258k). FNC’s O’Reilly was also down -14% vs. a year ago (775k vs. 906k).
* CNN is also up +20% in total viewers compared to a year ago (631k vs. 527k), O’Donnell is up just +7% and O’Reilly is down -12%.
* During the 4th quarter, the gap between CNN (135k) and Keith Olbermann (286k) was -53% in the demo — today, the gap between CNN at 8 pm (186k) vs. Lawrence O’Donnell (235k) is now just -21%.

At 7 pm, John King, USA is also up in February, increasing +20% in the demo 25-54 (177k vs. 148k) compared to a year ago. This represents King’s best month since launch (March 2010) with 559k in total viewers; up 28% vs. January.

At 5 pm, CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer increased +43% in the demo (196k vs. 137k) and +9% in total viewers (714k vs.653k) compared to last year. FNC’s Glenn Beck is experiencing big declines compared to a year ago – decreasing -32% in the key demo 25-54 (513k vs. 753k) and has declined -26% in total viewers (2.084m vs. 2.833m). In addition, the Situation Room at 6 pm is up +43% in the demo (199k vs. 139k) and increased +13% in total viewers (647k vs. 574k), while FNC’s Bret Baier declined -12% in the demo (468k vs. 533k) and is off -11% in total viewers vs. a year ago (2.206m vs.2.469m).

In February, CNN topped MSNBC during the daytime (9am-5pm) in both the key demo 25-54 and among total viewers. In head-to-head comparisons with MSNBC’s daytime non-opinion programming CNN more than doubled (+108%) MSNBC in the key demo (173k vs. 83k) and held a 60% lead in total viewers (589k vs. 367k). MSNBC trailed CNN every hour during the daytime in the demo and total viewers.

CNN reached a cumulative audience of 91.0 million viewers in February, FNC lagged behind with 79.8 million and MSNBC averaged 76.1 million.